Why not wait? It’s a simple question, but one worth asking. Thursday, Premier Tom Marshall announced a cabinet shuffle and the addition of a new minister, putting Terra Nova MHA Sandy Collins into the job of minister of Tourism and Culture.
Several other ministers were moved around, with Marshall arguing that “We shouldn’t leave ministers in a department for too long a period of time. … I think it’s good to bring a fresh perspective, and that’s what I wanted to do.”
Now, leaving aside the idea that cabinet ministers have a sort of “best before” date like bread or milk, you’ve got to wonder why there’s a shift in cabinet now, and particularly why there’s an increase in the number of people being paid to sit around the cabinet table.
Think of it from the point of view of a cost-benefit ratio. The costs are pretty clear: a group of ministers are being moved to new jobs, meaning they will have to get up to speed on a new portfolio — staff positions will change, letterhead will be reordered, business cards will be remade.
Heck, records will be sorted and moved, and the ministers themselves will be shifted, along with their files and personal staff, to new departmental locations.
Then there’s the case of Collins in particular: a new cabinet minister costs the taxpayer an additional $54,072 in pay per year, and doesn’t only affect this year. MHA pensions are based on an MHA’s three best years of pay, so, as soon as salaries go up, so does the prospect of long-term pension entitlements. (And since the MHAs’ pension plan is already horribly overdrawn, the money to pay pensions essentially comes directly from taxpayers.)
But salaries and pensions are only the tip of the iceberg: running a cabinet minister’s office generally involves ancillary staff and contract and transportation expense.
In this year’s estimates, the cost of a single minister’s office ranges from $237,000 a year to $431,000 a year on top of the minister’s extra salary.
Then, look at the other side of the cost-benefit equation and ask yourself just what exactly the benefits could be.
In two months — about the time it will take a minister to get fully up to speed on everything in his or her new department — we have the spectre of everything changing all over again.
Whenever it is that Frank Coleman decides to take over the reins as premier, we can probably expect to have a re-do as the new premier tries to put his stamp on the cabinet.
It’s almost a given that a new leader will have the urge to show some kind of “momentum” or “new direction,” and that will mean another round of changing the chairs.
This is a shuffle that could have waited. In fact, it’s a shuffle pretty much only for shuffle’s sake.